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A Player's Guide Newsletter issue #05 --- Ear Training

What's Inside

Ear Training

Piano Enthusiast Partners

Ear Training

Ear Training is a skill that can be learned; it will help you identify various musical elements, such as pitches, intervals, melody, chords, scales etc. Musicians practice this skill all the time. They realize that you can only perform or create music as well as you can hear; and, you can only enjoy and appreciate music as well as you can hear. Listening very carefully to music, either consciously or unconsciously always pays off with better listening skills and a better ear!

In order to determine the notes in a melody, you must have some ability to recognize intervals. Many people relate each interval to the first 2 notes of a familiar song. Here are some examples for each interval:

  • unison - Oh, Beautiful... (America)
  • m2 - theme from JAWS
  • M2 - Strangers in the Night
  • m3 - Greensleeves
  • M3 - O When (the Saints Go Marching In
  • P4 - Amazing Grace
  • +4 - Maria (West Side Story)
  • P5 - Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • m6 - A Day In The Life Of A Fool
  • M6 - NBC theme
  • m7 - Somewhere (West Side Story)
  • M7 - 1st & 3rd notes of Bali Hai (South Pacific)
  • octave - Somewhere Over the Rainbow
In addition to identifying the melody of a song, it's important to recognize the chords that support it. This can be done by practicing, and listening to different types of chords and their inversions, out of context, just to hear the characteristic sound of the chord.

Then practice and learn chord progressions to hear how chords relate to one another in the context of a piece of music. There is a lot of software out there promising that you can play by ear - develop perfect pitch - develop relative pitch, just by listening to a CD or watching a DVD. BEWARE!

I'm of the old school; perfect pitch, is the rare ability to know any note just by hearing it - or notes in a chord, just by hearing them. It CAN NOT be taught and most people are NOT born with this ability.

Relative pitch is the ability to relate one note or pitch to another note or series of notes. Developing this skill leads to a true understanding of the music - what makes it tick - both melodically and harmonically. This is what successful ear training software will accomplish.

Careful listening is critical: does the bass move up or down? by step or skip? does the melody move by step or skip? or repeated notes? is it a big skip, or a small skip? does it sound major or minor?

Great ear training software will address and and help you develop all of these skills... as well as really good relative pitch.

The most comprehensive ear training package that I have worked with and used is:

Auralia 4.

It's a drill-based teaching method that is fun and an easy way to use your computer for ear training. Rising Software Auralia 4, with 41 topics, is one of the most comprehensive ear training packages out there. Auralia 4 software's drill-based teaching method is a fun and easy way to use your computer for ear training. Auralia 4 leads you through a variety of graded exercises, and presents instant feedback. All of your results are recorded, and you may sing or play your answers using your microphone or MIDI keyboard. Auralia 4 is suitable for both classical and contemporary musicians of any age and ability.

Auralia 4 has hundreds of exercises from beginner to advanced levels, covering 41 topics such as: Identify & sing intervals and notes from chords,Melodic and rhythmic dictation, Identify cadences, Recognize and correct poor tuning, sing upper or lower part of a two-part phrase Write down chord progressions.

The tests are designed for classical, jazz, and rock/pop students, with special exercises on jazz/contemporary scales, chords, and progressions.

Some tests in Auralia 4 have multiple-choice questions; others let you answer by clicking an on-screen piano keyboard, playing on a MIDI keyboard; Auralia 4 even lets you sing into a microphone. Features:

  • Auralia 4 for Windows and Mac
  • Hundreds of exercises in 41 topics
  • divided into 5 topic groups;
  • Intervals and Scales
  • Chords
  • Rhythm
  • Harmony & Form
  • Pitch & Melody
  • Support for multiple syllabi
  • Level customization
  • Enhanced notation
  • Bright new interface
  • All the features of Auralia 3.5
  • Works with both Mac and PC
  • Get your ear in gear to what you hear. Train your brain with this smart software.

    Auralia 4.

    Piano Enthusiast Partners

    Piano Enthusiast Partners is dedicated to websites, links and information about some diverse, useful resources for piano enthusiasts. Visit my website and check it out!

    Piano Enthusiast Partners

    There is a video of a wonderful piece by Giovanni Dettori - the "Lady Gaga Fugue", a piece based on the theme from the song "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga. This should show how counterpoint can be fun and up to date!

    "This is an outstanding way to introduce the idea of counterpoint to young people skeptical of Classical music - which is exactly what Leonard Bernstein would have done with this fugue." Check it out at:

    Piano Enthusiast Partners

    So, that's it for now. Stay tuned for Newsletter issue# 06:

    the next stop on our ROAD MAP!

    This will follow around the 1st of the month!

    Thanks, and enjoy the website!

    Copyright © 2011 Ralph Martino
    All Rights Reserved

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